Zum Mitnehmen or To Go?

These days the influence of English on the German language is inescapable. ‘Denglish’, as the strange and somewhat comical mix of English and German is affectionately known, is all the rage here. Just walking down the street you can hear people ‘chatten,’ rather than plaudern, and see them grabbing a coffee ‘to go’ as opposed to zum Mitnehmen.

German language purists are up in arms about this ‘invasion’ of German, some even going so far as to say the language of Goethe and Schiller is being threatened by the use of English in German and could potentially die out. This does, however, seem somewhat far-fetched. Languages have borrowed words from one another for centuries – English, after all, has most notably been influenced by French and Latin.

There are also several ‘Germanisms’ used in the English language on a regular basis, Kindergarten being the most obvious. There is then doppelganger (though without the umlauts), Frankfurter (hot dog sausage), Hamburger, Glockenspiel, Kitsch, Lederhosen, and uber (again without the umlauts – for example ‘that’s uber cool’ means really cool) to name but a few. With Denglish, 9 times out of 10, German equivalents for the words do exist. The difference here, however, is that more often than not there are no English equivalents for the words we have ‘borrowed’ from German.

Here are a few examples of Denglish words that have their own German equivalents and the original English meaning.

Der Chef – boss – der Boss
herunterladen – to download – downloaden
der Vertriebsmitarbeiter – Account Manager – der Account Manager
der Berater – consultant – der Consultant
das Einchecken – check-in – das Check-in
aktualisieren – to update – updaten
die Stadtmitte – city centre – die City
die Auslagerung – outsourcing – der Outsourcing
streichen – to cancel – gecancelt, e. g. der Flug wurde gecancelt (the flight was cancelled)
Einkaufen gehen – to go shopping – shoppen

Quite often, as is clear from the above examples, Denglish words are technology and business related. Perhaps in the business world it is better to use ‘English’ vocabulary as English is the language of international business. In daily life, on the other hand, it seems there is no real explanation for the incessant use of Denglish, other than the fact it is fashionable. It could be, however, that some English words are just easier to say than the original is in German. Das Blog, for example, is somewhat less of a mouthful, not to say snappier, than das Internettagebuch.

There are also some Denglish words that bear no relation to the original in English, some of which are amusing for native speaks like myself, while others are just bewildering…

Das Handy – a mobile phone or cell phone to native speakers
Wellness centre – commonly known as a spa in English speaking countries
Der Smoking – not a smoking jacket, but a tuxedo
Das Happy End – otherwise known as a happy ending

A personal favourite is the German penchant for calling a rucksack (a word initially borrowed from the German) a ‘body bag’. If you asked for a body bag in a shop selling rucksacks in England you would get some very funny looks! And then there is die ‘Black Music’…

Let us know your favourite Denglish words/experiences!

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3 thoughts on “Zum Mitnehmen or To Go?”

  1. Love the article! As an English speaker who has lived in Germany for almost a decade, these are things I often talk to both my German and non-German friends about.

    One you didn’t mention is mobbing. Germans use mobbing to mean bullying (at school, in the workplace, cyber-bullying, etc) and are often very surprised to find out that in English, mobbing is something that describes what happens to a music or sports star when they are surrounded by fans. You can understand where the Germans have taken it from (a mob is a large, unruly group) but they’ve just not quite got it right. Happens a lot!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Sebastian. Ahh, yes, Mobbing – how could I forget! You may enjoy my forthcoming article for Lexiophiles on the fascination the people I meet here have with my English Accent. Watch out for the article, ‘The Great British Accent’ later this week….I have also written a guest post recently for the pocket cultures blog about my struggles with the German language which you can find here –



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